Manhattan Park Project Murkier: Updated

Manhattan Park’s project at 40 River Road got murkier yesterday, starting with increased ADA concerns and ending with permit questions.

Manhattan Park's 40 River Road Project grew murkier yesterday, starting with this flawed ADA option.
RIOC says that Manhattan Park agreed to immediately upgrade signage, but days later, it’s still deficient.

On Thursday, we reported that the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation caved in to real estate manager Manhattan Park. RIOC backed off on safety violations, letting construction at 40 River Road continue without a permit.

But that may be only the tip of the iceberg.

All major construction work in New York City needs permits. Roosevelt Island is different because State approval is needed along with a City Department of Buildings okay.

Manhattan Park may have ignored both, but let’s start with some human basics.

First Things First: People

Before getting into who did or didn’t break the rules, let’s remember that building regulations are there for good reasons. Requirements like fire extinguishers and good lighting target safe conditions and respect for people.

Full Disclosure: My father suffered a permanent disability from polio as a teenager, and I spent 17 years working with disabled adults. This may make me more conscious of ADA violations and their importance.

So, what does disregarding them tell us?

We got into an email rumble with RIOC over Manhattan Park.

Five days went by with wheelchairs along with stroller moms and everyone else forced to walk in Main Street traffic before RIOC woke up.

When the State agency finally took a look, they found that Manhattan Park never applied for a construction permit, and they ordered them to stop work.

But only for about as long as it takes to get a drink of water.

Manhattan Park Project Even Murkier

Without a permit as much as applied for, Manhattan Park’s project got a quick green light.

Building management, RIOC argued, told them what they were doing and promised to fill out an application. That, astonishingly, was enough for the State, which still has to review the details and approve.

No, this was not approval in advance, RIOC told The Daily.

Joan Baez to Bob Dylan from Diamonds and Rust: “Then, give me another word for it.”

RIOC argued that Manhattan Park agreed to immediately improve their signs and become ADA compliant. Two days later, signs for the alternative sidewalk at 40 River Road are still hopelessly awful.

Maybe “non-existent” is more like it.

And ADA compliance is a joke. Not the funny kind.

Frail elderly, people with canes, wheelchairs — all are required to navigate this poorly repaired pothole in the alternate sidewalk.

Manhattan Park Project Murkier: ADA Compliant?

The Americans with Disabilities Act works to help “people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life.”

The law, passed by Republicans in 1992, enjoys wide public approval.

But Manhattan Park had to be crowbarred into doing the right thing.

A week after forcing wheelchairs, frail elderly and everyone else into Main Street, managers agreed to build a ramp for wheelchairs, under pressure.

Potholes remain as obstacles. Bizarrely set up fencing kept pushing some into the street, but RIOC was happy to get anything that suggested they were doing their jobs.

Water dripping on ADA wooden ramp forces wheelchairs to roll through steady drips and slippery ramp.
If you’re in a wheelchair, you have no choice. You must ride through falling water the more able bodied step around.

Yesterday morning, we found the ADA ramp wet from water dripping off a balcony above. People on foot stepped easily around it, but if you rode a wheelchair, you had to suck it up and get wet.

This may not seem like a big deal, but put yourself in a wheelchair and see how you feel about being singled out.

Rain’s in the forecast. What happens to the slippery ramp then? Is it safe or welcoming for people who are disabled?

Manhattan Park Project Gets Murkier

“They’ve applied for a permit with us and they’re supposed to have a DOB permit,” RIOC agreed after a daylong tussle.

Was the DOB permit publicly displayed? RIOC asked.

Well, no.

That wasn’t possible.

DOB’s public database shows that Manhattan Park never applied. Therefore, no permit stapled to the wall.


Correction: RIOC countered that they have found a permit for the location on the DOB website, although neither Manhattan Park or its contractor provided a copy. As of today, 8/23/2019, we have not been able to verify that the permit is for this specific project. The contractor has not posted the permits onsite, as required, and there appears to be multiple projects at this location.

RIOC helped with the violation, however inadvertently. They didn’t ask.

So, The Daily did it for them. Checking the DOB’s website for permits takes all of five minutes, if you’re sipping wine and watching the Yankees before dinner as I was. Otherwise, less.

What happens next?

We’re not cops. We can’t enforce City and State regulations any more than we can stop eBikes from racing down sidewalks.

But we can help.

Amazon offers a model spine here.

For $72, RIOC can get one to use as an example.

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